The Friendship Surprise (Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Friendship Surprise by Giorgio Volpe and Paolo Proietti, translated by Angus Yuen-Killick, a lovely sequel to the author-illustrator pair’s previous book, Before We Sleep.

Little Red the fox is so excited – his best friend Hazel the dormouse is soon to wake from her winter hibernation, and Little Red is going planning his customary surprise for when she does. He worries though, because while Hazel was hibernating, he made a new friend – Brock the badger – and has been spending lots of time with him. He wonders briefly if his surprise should be introducing the two, but he worries that Hazel will like Brock more than him, and he will lose both friends by bringing them together. He resolves to keep spending time with both friends separately, but this leads to some suspicious behavior that puzzles both besties. How will Little Red resolve his friendship conundrum?

Lovely. Picking up where the heartwarming yet bittersweet Before We Sleep left off, Little Red and Hazel’s new story explores another classic theme of childhood friendship: navigating the meshing of friend groups. Little Red’s specific anxiety – that his two wonderful friends will only want to be friends with each other, pushing him out – gives this theme a fresh and empathetic twist, and one that may especially speak to readers with poor self esteem. It’s wonderful that both Hazel and Brock treat Little Red’s fear with delicacy and sincerity, proving that they are loyal friends. Volpe’s text and Killick’s translation are gentle and endearing, and Proietti’s soft pencil-style illustrations fit the tone and spring season setting perfectly. The length was great for a elementary storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. Overall, a worthy sequel, and a delight all on its own. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Before We Sleep (Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti)

Hello, friends! Our book today Before We Sleep by Giorgio Volpe and Paolo Proietti, a soft and sweet tale of fall friendship.

Little Red the fox is excited for the change of seasons that brings fall – it means autumn colors to hide in and crunchy leaves to play with. The only thing that makes the fall even more fun is the time spent with Red’s best friend, Hazel the dormouse. The pair spend a marvelous fall frolicking and playing hide-and-seek. Yet as the air grows colder, Little Red begins to fret; soon winter will be here, and Hazel will go into hibernation, leaving Red all along until spring. Trying to think of ways to keep Hazel from hibernating, Red resorts to asking if Hazel will try to stay awake this year, but the dormouse gently replies that when spring has come again, they will be back together. Until then, they can enjoy the time they have by appreciating their best friend.

Very sweet. This Italian import explores themes of friendship, even through separation, in a gentle, tender, yet surprisingly honest fashion. And while the ending feels a little abrupt, it does leave the reader with the implication that even while Hazel hibernates, Red will be okay, if a little lonely, until spring. The text, with translation by Angus Yuen-Killick is filled with language that paints a beautiful autumnal story, and cleverly and subtly chooses not to gender either of the main characters. The soft, smoky lines of the pencil art is cozy yet moody, and captures the tone perfectly. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it, even if she also felt the ending was a little unexpected. This is a different kind of tale, but one no less meaningful for it, and we liked it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Let’s Get Sleepy! (Tony Cliff)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Let’s Get Sleepy! by Tony Cliff, a delightfully wild seek-and-find.

Waking up early and bouncing out of bed with excitement, orange kitten Richard is ready to start his day. One of a large litter of siblings, Richard begins the morning by wondering where Sleepy, the wee prince of the night (embodied by a regally-outfitted mouse), has gone off too. Gathering his pack of feline family and friends, Richard spills out the door with the cry: “LET’S GET SLEEPY!”. Exploring their busy town through parades, mountaintops, underground caves, the beach, and even the surface of the moon, the gaggle of kitties searches high and low for Sleepy… to no avail. Trudging home, Richard recounts his busy day to his mother as she readies her kids for bed. Tucking the kitty in, Mom assures Richard that after a full day like his, he needn’t search too hard for Sleepy – she has a feeling that Sleepy will find him soon enough.

Adorable, interactive fun. While the light and bouncy rhyming text and highly enjoyable refrain of this title make for a delightful read-aloud, its magic is in its incredibly charming and detailed illustrations. Richard and his gang of kittens are each unique and winsome, and a helpful guide on the back cover helps readers distinguish them by name and appearance. But it’s the jaw-dropping crowd scenes that are the star of the show, each creating a Where’s Waldo-like seek-and-find where both the reader and the kittens can search for the elusive Sleepy (with plenty of visual treats and gags to entertain as they do). This makes the length as much or little as your little bookworm wants; JJ sat comfortably for the read-through, and was eager to return to each art spread for closer examination. This one is sure to delight, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Lion Inside (Rachel Bright)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Lion Inside, written by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field, a charming tale of finding one’s courage.

In the middle of an African plain, there is a very tall rock. At the very bottom of the towering landmark, there is a teeny tiny house, where lives the meekest little brown mouse. The poor mouse is so small, he often gets overlooked, excluded, even stepped on. It’s a lonely life, and he wishes he could be more like his neighbor on top of the rock – the boss lion. Because of the lion’s strength, leadership, and mighty roar, all the animals respect and admire him, especially the little mouse. One night, the mouse has an epiphany: perhaps, if he had a mighty roar of his own, he could get the attention of the other animals. He would still be a mouse, but perhaps the others would realize he was there and include him in their social circles. However, he realizes that the best one – the ONLY one – who can teach him this skill is the boss lion himself! Gathering his courage, Mouse sets up to the top of the rock, but will his quest be met with success? Or will he end up as – gulp! – a lion’s snack?

Very cute. The story does a good job of setting up the mouse’s struggles, especially that his aim in learning to roar is simply to be noticed and included – an understandable wish. The twist, in which we find that the lion is terrified of mice, is clever – the mouse is friendly and he and the lion become fast friends. It’s a good way of illustrating that everyone is afraid of something, and that our courage can often be found in our kindness. The illustrations are bright and energetic, with great character design and dynamic angles. The length was good, and JJ loved it! A sweet and encouraging tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse (Mac Barnett)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, a delightfully weird fable about making the best of a bad situation.

A mouse is scampering through the woods one day when he comes upon a wolf – who promptly eats him. Trapped in “the belly of the beast”, Mouse bemoans his fate a moment, until he hears another voice telling him to hush, as it’s past bedtime. Shocked, Mouse finds that he is not alone in the wolf’s tummy: Duck, a previous meal of the hungry wolf, has made a lovely home in his new surroundings, complete with bed, fully stocked kitchen, and record player. In fact, he doesn’t mind having been eaten – now that he lives inside the wolf, he doesn’t worry much about getting eaten by wolves anymore. Mouse decides to stay as well, and the two new friends hold a party to celebrate, giving the wolf a terrible tummyache. And THAT’S when the hunter arrives…

If you’ve ever read a Barnett/Klassen collaboration before, you know that their stories are a little dark, a little odd, extremely dry, and funny as all getout, and this one is no different. Klassen’s wide-eyed characters are hilariously expressive (the climactic spread had me rolling with laughter), and while his use of dark/black space here – rather than his usual white space – can make the spreads confusing for very young eyes, it perfectly fits the tone and humor of the book and older readers will love it. The text and dialogue are filled with hilarious deadpan humor, and the ending has a wonderfully unexpected twist payoff. The length is great, and JJ and I both had a scream reading it. A hysterically twisted fable to share, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!